At LOOKbetween, A Discussion of Video and Multimedia Storytelling

Photographers and photo industry professionals who attended the LOOKbetween festival over the past weekend at Deep Rock Farm near Charlottesville, VA, participated in small, informal group discussions on Saturday morning that addressed three topics: The Business: From Individual to Agency; Storytelling Techniques: From Film to Video; and Publishing: From Book to iPad.

The shift to video being explored by many photographers was one of the major themes of a Storytelling Techniques discussion of which I was a part. And of course one of the primary questions about photographers creating video was, “Who is going to fund the work?”



British photographer Toby Smith said he was able to sell video footage he shot while on assignment in Madagascar to broadcast television networks in the United Kingdom. The video footage was not part of his original assignment, so the NGO that he was working with gave him permission to sell the video footage.

This prompted a discussion of editorial contracts and whether photographers on assignment for editorial clients could conceivably do something similar in order to earn money for video work. National Geographic photo editor Elizabeth Krist said that the magazine asks for rights to all of the content produced by photographers on assignment for them.

Avi Gupta, a photo editor at US News & World Report, said that his magazine pays a double day rate to photographers who create both stills and video for them on assignment.

The group also discussed the challenges photographers who are asked to produce video and multimedia content face in balancing that extra work with their still photography. If a photographer is asked to capture video and/or audio while also completing a still assignment, are they able to create quality work, or are they being pulled in too many directions?

Rather than doing everything themselves, photographer Daniel Wakefield Pasley suggested photographers could take on directorial roles for their clients, bringing a team together to tell a story using all of the tools available to them—stills, multimedia, video and even text.

Another question that came up was whether it was even necessary to shoot video or produce multimedia. Is there a demand for it, the group wondered? Just because you can create video, does it mean you should?

Jenny Nichols of the International League of Conservation Photographers mentioned that the ILCP commissioned videographers to follow photographers in the field, and the resulting video was useful in educating people on the mission of the ILCP and in promoting their work. The video helped people engage with the still photography, in other words.

It was also suggested that having a video or multimedia component to a project could increase the audience because media consumers engage with stories in different ways—through slideshows, through video or through multimedia. Video and multimedia might also help photographers place a story in different types of media outlets or find alternative funding sources from organizations that could use the work for educational purposes or in increasing awareness about a particular issue the project deals with. In other words, the desired outcome of a project should help photographers decide which tools to use in telling a story.

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